When considering your four-legged friend’s health and well-being, one of the most important factors to consider is their diet. Pets require a balanced and nutritious diet to thrive. However, choosing the best can be confusing with the myriad pet food options available. Knowing how to decipher your pet’s food label is crucial to providing them with the highest quality nutrition possible. Our Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital team breaks down pet food labels’ critical components so you can make informed decisions about what goes into your furry pal’s bowl.

Pet food label ingredients list

The ingredients list is the most important part of any pet food label, providing valuable insight into what your cat or dog is consuming. Ingredients are presented in descending order by weight, with the most abundant ingredient listed first. Look for whole, recognizable ingredients such as:

  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Beef
  • Salmon
  • Whitefish 
  • Wild game meats, including bison and elk

On the ingredients list, you may also see whole grains and healthy carbohydrates, such as sweet potato or brown rice, along with protein. Some pet foods may include fruits or berries. The essential takeaway is to look for recognizable, healthy ingredients, especially those listed at the top. 

Pet food label guaranteed analysis

The guaranteed analysis section outlines the minimum or maximum percentages of the food’s critical nutrients such as protein, fat, fiber, and moisture. This information gives you an idea of the food’s nutritional content and can help you choose the right formula for your pet’s needs. Remember that the guaranteed analysis is based on an as-fed basis, so you may need to adjust the values to compare different diets accordingly.

Pet food label nutritional adequacy statement

The nutritional adequacy statement indicates whether the food is complete and balanced for your pet’s life stage, such as growth, maintenance, or all life stages. The statement must comply with the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards, ensuring that the food meets the nutritional requirements established for pets’ life stages.

Pet food label feeding guidelines

Feeding guidelines recommend the food amount you should feed your pet based on their weight and life stage. However, these are loose guidelines and don’t account for an individual pet’s activity level, body condition score (BCS), metabolism, and other critical factors. Contact our Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital team for accurate feeding guidelines, or talk with our veterinarian at your pet’s next wellness exam. We can also explain how to monitor your furry pal’s weight and adjust their portions to maintain a healthy body condition.

Pet food label additives and preservatives

Scan the ingredients list for additives, preservatives, artificial colors, and flavors that do not contribute to your pet’s health. Natural preservatives, such as tocopherols (vitamin E), are generally preferred over synthetics such as beta hydroxy acid (BHA), butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), and ethoxyquin. Additionally, some pets may have allergies to certain additives and food dyes, so our veterinary team can recommend safe, healthy food options if your furry friend has food sensitivities. 

Pet food label manufacturer information

This pet food label portion gives the manufacturer’s name, address, and phone number. Reputable companies are happy to answer your questions about their food brands and provide information about their control methods, ingredient sources, and other invaluable information. 

Pet food jargon 

To sell more pet food, many manufacturers use marketing jargon on their packaging. The actual named ingredient(s) on the food package, for example—chicken dog food—must contain a high percentage of that ingredient. However, all other phrases are suspect. Research such statements’ authenticity before choosing a pet food. Standard terms used to promote pet food include:

  • Gourmet
  • Wild
  • Natural
  • Organic
  • Homemade
  • Grain-free

Your pet’s food label information doesn’t have to be confusing. By learning the meaning of the label’s key components, you can make better decisions about what you feed your furry companion. If you have questions about your pet’s diet, contact our Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital team.